Stronger hurricanes that are reignited by jet winds are twice as likely to cross the Atlantic and wreak havoc on Europe than weaker ones, new research has found.
Atlantic hurricanes generate international attention due to the destruction they can cause in North America and the Caribbean. Just a few days ago, former Hurricane Fiona impacted Canada as one of the strongest storms on record. Although less well known, these cyclones can also wreak havoc on Europe.
The question of why some hurricanes hit Europe as ex-hurricanes and others has been unclear. Scientists investigated this question by studying 180 previous hurricanes over a 40-year period, and found that stronger hurricanes are much more likely to hit Europe, and those that encounter strong jet winds often become to intensify, helping them move further east.
The study, led by the University of Reading and the National Center for Atmospheric Sciences and published today in the journal Monthly weather reviewhelps explain why former hurricanes hit Europe, which is particularly important as warmer ocean temperatures due to climate change are expected to make hurricanes stronger.
Elliott Sainsbury, Ph.D. The University of Reading researcher who led the study said: “Previous hurricanes are quite rare in Europe, but they can be deadly and destructive events, so it is very important that we better understand why they come from across the ocean.” .
“Our research shows that stronger hurricanes, and hurricanes that are re-energized by the jet stream over the Atlantic, are much more likely to hit Europe. They seem to retain some memory of their strength in the tropics. We have now established this remarkably strong link to hurricane strength. As stronger hurricanes may become more frequent due to climate change, we could also see more ex-hurricanes coming to Europe in the future. However, there are other factors to consider, and more research is needed on this question.”
Cyclones are common in Europe, but only around two hurricanes make it to the continent each year, usually between August and November. However, they can bring extremely high winds and heavy rain, and some of the strongest storms on record across Europe are former hurricanes.
Former Hurricane Ophelia set a national wind speed record and killed three people in Ireland in 2017, while former Hurricane Katia caused more than £100m of damage in Scotland in 2011.
The study published today is the latest contribution from scientists at the University of Reading and the National Center for Atmospheric Sciences who are working to understand the risks posed by hurricanes to Europe.
NOAA Hurricane Forecast for 2022: Up to 21 named storms possible; up to 10 hurricanes could form
Monthly weather review (2022). DOI: 10.1175/MWR-D-22-0111.1
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